Sheena Gayle, Gleaner Writer
Western Bureau:Following in the wake of a recent incident in Montego Bay in which a mentally ill man was shot dead by the police, Nurse Joy Crooks, the head of the Committee for the Upliftment of the Mentally Ill (CUMI), is renewing her call for a partnership with the police with regard to how the mentally ill should be treated.
"For years, we have been trying to partner with the police, but they have been resistant," Crooks told Western Focus in an interview earlier this week. "We think the time has come for us to try again."
Crooks expressed the view that had there been such a relationship between her organisation and the police, the mentally challenged man who was killed would probably have not suffered that fate.
On the day of the shooting, the mentally ill man is said to have attacked a policeman with a machete on Church Lane in downtown Montego Bay. The man, who was not identified, was shot twice by a policeman after failed attempts to restrain him.
"If we had a system in place when that incident occurred, the mental health officers, along with other members of the police force, would have responded," said Crooks. "The trained mental-health personnel would seek to defuse the situation, and if that fails, then the police would intervene to offer non-lethal restraint.
"There are other defensive ways to restrain these persons" argued Crooks, who has been the chief voice advocating for better treatment for the mentally ill within recent years.
Since the infamous Montego Bay Street People Scandal of 1999 when several mentally ill persons were mistreated in a state-sponsored operation, CUMI has emerged as the primary community-based outreach organisation advocating for the homeless, who regularly roam the streets of Montego Bay in large numbers.
"The demand is greater than the resources we have," said Crooks in looking at CUMI capacity to properly serve the mentally ill. "Until there is a balance with regard to resources coming from Government to help to meet the demands, then I am afraid things will not get any better.
"We have three mental health officers for the parish, but the demand indicates we need six," said Crooks. "In addition, our fund-raising efforts and donors allowed us to purchase one minibus to service Montego Bay, but the demand is such that we have to be using it to service the entire western region, which was not the original intent."